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The Communicators

News/Business. People who shape the digital future.

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00:31:00

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San Francisco, CA, USA

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Comcast Cable

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Channel 17

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mpeg2video

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ac3

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704

PIXEL HEIGHT
480

TOPIC FREQUENCY

America 16, U.s. 9, Pryor 7, Usf 5, Mccain 4, Tom Wheeler 3, Fcc 3, Mark Pryor 3, Us 3, La Carte 2, At&t 2, Michael Froman 2, Iran 2, Wheeler 2, Stella 2, Mac Pryor 1, Arkansas 1, Abc 1, Rea 1, The Idea 1,
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  CSPAN    The Communicators    News/Business. People who  
   shape the digital future.  

    August 5, 2013
    8:00 - 8:31am EDT  

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[applause] >> booktv is on facebook. like us to interact with booktv guests and viewers, watch videos and get up-to-date information on events. facebook.com/booktv. >> you've been watching booktv, 48 hours of book programming beginning saturday morning at 8 eastern through monday morning at 8 eastern. nonfiction books all weekend, every weekend right here on c-span2. >> up next, "the communicators" talks with arkansas senator mark pryor, chairman of the senate subcommittee on communications. talk about issues including broadband and cell phone access in rural areas and reauthorization of a law that allows satellite operators to send distant signals to subscribers who can't receive them from their local affiliates. then a house oversight subcommittee examines a government rule authorizing tax
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credits for americans who buy health insurance through federally-run exchanges. and later, live coverage from the brookings institution as u.s. trade representative michael froman and others discuss extending a law that adds incentives to african countries that trade with the u.s. >> c-span, created by america's cable companies in 1979, brought to you as a public service by your television provider. >> host: senator mark pryor's joining us on "the communicators" this week. he's chair of the commerce subcommittee on communications technology and the internet. senator pryor, your full committee recently approved tom wheeler to be fcc nominee. senator cruz, your colleague, has talked about putting a hold on that nomination. is there any word on that right now? >> guest: well, we're working on that. let me first say thank you for having me on, it's great to be on the show, and also let me say thank you to c-span for all the
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public interest broadcasting they do. it's great. i know you don't belief this, people in arkansas say, hey, i saw you on c-span, so i want to thank c-span for what they did k. let me get back to the tom wheeler nomination. basically, there's a sentiment within the senate that we ought to pair this with a republican nominee. i think everybody's comfortable with tom wheeler as far as i know, but the republicans would like to have a republican to go alongside through the process. problem is that we have not at least officially -- i mean, i hear rumors, but officially -- we have not received the republican name of who they'd like, you know, nominated. so my understanding it may be in process. i don't know the whole status of that, have not been officially notified, but i hear rumors. nonetheless, hopefully we'll get this done quickly. senator rockefeller has said publicly and he said in a hearing he wanted to expedite
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that and move it through as quickly as possible to have them paired on the floor. my view is you don't have to pair them. it's kind of a senate courtesy. i think i if we can do it in such a way that it doesn't delay too long of a time for tom wheeler to take over, that's okay. but if it's going to take a long time, it's going to be protracted, i would go ahead and try to get tom wheeler on. >> host: well, one of the concerns senator cruz expressed was restricting speech. >> guest: i don't really share that concern. the fcc, you know, that's a hard job. i think people don't always appreciate it, but it's one of those jobs where it's very difficult to make everyone happy, and often times you don't make anyone happy. and i just don't see them weighing in on political speech. i don't see that that's a big agenda item for anyone. but, you know, certainly it is something they could do, you know, conceivably, but i don't see them doing that. so my view is we have to have a well functioning fcc, let's get the chairman in there, let's get
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rolling, let's get as many commissioners as possible. if we can get the republican on quickly, let's do that. if we can do it together, that's fine. i like fully functioning agencies, boards and commissions. >> host: senator pryor, i also wanted to ask you about a set of hearings you've been holding in your subcommittee. what's the goal of these hearings, and do you see legislative action coming from them? >> guest: possibly. for your viewers that aren't that familiar with the communications -- communications -- what is it? technology, excuse me, communications, technology and internet subcommittee, i was garbling that, but the cti subcommittee, we've had a series, we've started the congress with a series of four we call them state of hearings. and so we have the state of rural telecom, we have the state of wireless telecom, the state of wire line telecom and the fourth one, let's see, i'll have to think about what that is.
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nonetheless, the idea is to -- we have a lot of new committee members, subcommittee members, about maybe 25, 30% are new. but let's kind of hear from the industry, hear from all the stakeholders, let's try to get everybody sort of acclimated to the issues, understand where the issues are, get the state of play. that's why we call them the state of hearings. once we get these four done, which we have, we can move forward. state of rid owe was the fourth one. state of video. and once we get these four done, then we have laid the groundwork to look at legislation. the one thing the subcommittee has to do by the end of next year is stella which is the satellite reauthorization. you all know that, and it sounds like your audience here is a pretty sophisticated audience on telecom and all the things about all this, so they probably know what stella is, but that's the satellite telecommunications law. that means if you get dish or, you know, one of the other networks, the satellite networks, then stella is going
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to govern. the question is do we do kind of a clean reauthorization, do we kind of just basically roll it over maybe with some changes to modernize and update, or do we actually start getting into some policy issues. and that's really the question. i think what i'm hearing mostly from the committee and the subcommittee is they'd like to do a clean reauthorization. but, again, you have to understand that this is one of those rare bills where you have joint jurisdiction between us and the senate judiciary committee. so we're going to have to work with our colleagues on judiciary and, of course, the house they have two committees there, so this is going to be a four-step process instead of a two-step process. >> host: joining our conversation with senator pryor is gautham nagesh with cq roll call. >> thank you, peter. senator, you referenced the state of the wire line. what, in your opinion, is the state of wire line, and how does the universal concept of service play into today's market with writerless phone, broadband
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internet are perhaps more important to many consumers than, say, their land line? >> guest: yeah, you touched on three or four important issues. first, the wire line network is the backbone of our whole telecommunications system. we need wires, i mean, there's no doubt. if you have a cell phone and you call from washington, d.c. to san francisco, at some point it's going to go over a land-based system. you don't, you know, you don't talk wirelessly all the way across the country. you connect into a celling tower, and then it goes -- so the wire line system, all of the wires not just into the home, but the wired system is very important. it is the backbone, it's critically important. the other thing you mentioned before is there is this big transition going on now. you mentioned wireless. and it is huge. and if you look at the numbers, clearly, you see the big trend lines, but also there's the ip transition as well, the internet protocol transition, where a lot of the phone companies, the incumbent carriers, they're saying, look, we're going over -- we're getting away from
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the traditional copper wire, the tradition alltel phony that we think of that has been regulated the same way for decades. we need to have a new generation of regulation which, basically, what they would like to say is no regulation or very little, very light regulation. so with your traditional phone like when we all grew up, like i grew up in arkansas, i probably didn't realize it at the time, but southwestern bell -- who was my local carrier -- they had obligations to me. they were the carrier of last resort. they had other obligations to me as a customer because they had a monopoly. the monopolies are kind of gone, i mean, they are gone kind of. but, so some of these companies want to come in and say, well, as we're doing this ip transition, let's just get away from regulation, let's get rid of all these obligations. that concerns me. in fact, that may with the subject of a -- that may be the subject of a hearing in our subcommittee at some point. we haven't announced, but we're
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looking at that pause this issue really came up during the wire line hearing that we had, and i think it's an issue that may deserve further discussion. >> you also touched on another aspect of this which is that the traditional phone line system because of the regulations attached to it is far more reliable and perhaps resilient in the face of natural disasters than some of the issues we've seen with cell phone networks in areas that have been affected by natural disasters. do you think there is any possibility for congress to act in that area, to require wireless carriers to take on some of the same responsibilities that land line yeaiers used to have? >> i think that's one thing the subcommittee can talk about, the full committee, the senate for that matter, we can talk about that. when you were asking that question, you know, i was thinking of examples in arkansas where, say, we've had tornadoes or ice storm, something like that where it knocks the power lines down. we go without power, but our land line still works because it's on a different system. and that redundancy is a good thing in a natural disaster.
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and we've seen oftentimes when your power dose out, if your power goes out in the wrong place, your cell phone itself may have power, i mean, you have a battery, but you can't connect because those towers are down. so we've seen that in a lot of natural disasters. we need to build in that redundancy, make sure our phone system works maybe especially in time of an emergency. that's something we need to focus on. the other thing you haven't really mentioned yet which is critical is rural america. we mentioned we had a hearing on rural america because the economics of rural america really haven't changed. it's just like back in the old days they couldn't get electricity in rural america, so they set up the rea. they couldn't get telephone service, so they set up the universal service fund. a lot of this is changing. there's a ton of change in this world, but we just need to make sure that rural america is not left behind. >> actually, i drove home to
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michigan this weekend, and i couldn't help but notice precisely what you're referring to which is cell phone differs greatly and, obviously, the rural areas is where it is not as strong. >> guest: right. >> what can be done about this? most of it is going towards broadband, so what can be done in the wireless space? >> guest: well, this is something, i think, that the fcc has grappled with, the house and senate have grappled with this. i don't think we have a clear answer in terms of a clear consensus, but obviously a lot of what we talk about here is money. the economics of providing rural wireless are just not as good as they are in urban areas. you just have a density of population, that means a density of paying customers. you go to rural america, i mean, you know, we have stretches of arkansas that, you know, you're driving 10, 20, 30 miles before you see another house. you go places like montana, you may go a hundred, two hundred miles, alaska, a thousand miles.
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nonetheless, these are all challenges, and the economics don't really work to provide state of the art wireless out there in those areas because they can't recoup. so that's why things like the univ.al service fund -- universal service fund and others, we have other names for it but basically the same thing. that's why it's so important. we need to make sure those folks in rural america don't get left behind. we don't have the urban and the suburban over here and they're cutting edge and then rural america's just on two generations ago technology. that doesn't work. that's not good. it's not good for anybody. we need to connect rural america. >> host: so, senator pryor, do you foresee usf reform coming in this congress? >> guest: well, there again this is another thing we maybe should have a hearing on, because we spent a lot of time on usf. i bet you a third of the witnesses in these four hearings that one way or another mentioned usf in talking about how the universal service fund and, again, there may be
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different names of it as it sort of changes and transitions itself. but nonetheless, that usf, that universal service fund which basically means that everybody pays a little bit into a fund, and then that fund goes to help customers usually in rural america, but it could be low income customers, whatever. but we want to make sure that everybody has, can connect. and, you know, my view is of this is if you think about american history, initially when the first european settlers came, they had to be on the coast because they had to connect with trade and communications back to europe. and then as time went on, you know, you could settle on rivers. in fact, you look at all the u.s. cities today, almost all of them, almost all of them -- not every single one, but the big cities -- they're almost all either on the coast or big rivers. why? that's because that's how the country grew because they were on that river system. when the steam engine came along, paddle boats you get further up the rivers and man could have a little more control
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over that. and then with the railroads. but there was a time that 23 you were not on a railroad, you might as well not exist, you know? your town would just dry up and blow away if it wasn't on the the river. we see that in the history of our state and every other state. and now in the last, since i've been around, it's been interstates. you have to have interstates for economic development. today, though, it's broadband. broadband is that one extra piece you have to have, or you're just not going to get jobs in certain areas, you know? and it's important for a state like arkansas to do things like telemedicine and ore things where you can provide some services like health care services, some of those services to the most rural areas of our state with the greatest doctors in the world because you can connect by broadband. and so there's a huge amount of power in that. that's a great thing, and that's why we need to make sure rural america isn't left behind. >> when it comes to wireless communications or video services, is there enough competition, in your view, and the senate, can the congress do
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anything to increase that competition? >> well, you said in wire line or wireless? >> host: wireless. >> guest: wireless? york -- you know, that's a hypercompetitive industry, and they just beat up on each other all the time. the truth is it's very, very competitive in most areas of the country. there's numerous wireless carriers in most areas, but also in most areas there's kind of the big two. you know, at&t and verizon. listen, they're great at what they do, they've gotten in there, completed, they've played by the rules, and thai grown their -- they've grown their market share. and so what happens is everybody else makes up that third competitor. i think we want to make sure that that third competitor which is really a conglomeration of companies. we know some of their names, and a lot of the names are little local names that we don't know, but they're in there fighting hard trying to provide service as well. we need to make sure that playing field is level so everybody can compete. people that say i don't like
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regulation, well, the answer to that is competition. if you have real competition that's robust, that it's fair and, you know, once you get a competitive advantage you can't just, you know, dominate, but if you have fair competition, that's the answer to regulation is just have good, fair competition, good marketplace, let consumers have a lot of choice. >> host: and you're watching "the communicators" program on c-span. our guest, senator mac pryor, democrat from arkansas. he is chair of the subcommittee on communications, technology and the internet. our guest reporter this week is gautham nagesh of cq roll call. >> senator, you referred to broadband as being vital to the future especially for rural areas. do you believe that broadband should be something that every household has access to either through some sort of usf subsidy or a program similar? >> guest: i would like to see that. you know, traditionally we pretty much have that policy in this country for telephones, that every telephone, you know, every household basically had the right to have access to
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telephone service. you know, i'm sure it didn't work out in 100% of the cases. there's always those really hard to serve, really difficult areas. but i do think trying to get broadband to as many houses as possible and the right level of broadband, you know, not some fly by night, cheap type service but something that really people can have access and actually use it. you know how it is, not everybody wants it. i know people, they don't have internet, they don't want it. but most people i talk to, they want it, they love it, they continue to rely on it. it's important for business, it's important for just the way they communicate now. you know, these things like facebook, twitter, you know, whatever it happens to be, web sites. that's how people communicate. that's how grandparents stay in touch with their grandchildren, things hike that. so that is one of the beautiful things about all technology in america. america's so innovative. i mean, you put it out there,
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we're going to find ways to use it, and we're going to do things that you never thought could exist ten years ago, and that's really the story of the internet. >> now, while broadband is increasingly popular, statistics show that adoption remains in the 60%, 60s, basically. cost is most frequently cited as the major reason. do you think anything can be done about that? i think consumers are familiar with the fact that broadband costs continue to rise, in some cases performance also rises, not the in all. >> guest: right. >> what is your view of that marketplace? >> guest: well, i do think that's a real problem. you look at a state like mine, and i know arkansas' not unique, but we have a lot of people who are low income, and it's hard for them to afford that monthly internet service provider fee. i mean, they just can't do it. and that's actually a concern i have with some of the things that we've heard where people say, for example, we were talking about land line phones a
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few moments ago. i'm jumping back to a previous topic. where some people say, well, things are just going more and more wireless instead of people having a land line phone, let's just take a wireless phone. well, you know, that's great in the abstract, but how much is that going to cost the person? right now you can probably get a land line phone out in rural america somewhere for, you know, what? 10, 15, $20 a month? something like that? it's going to be hard to find a wireless plan that cheap in a lot of places. so we need to look at to the consumer and kind of back to what you were saying a moment ago, that's a real factor in the take rate of people taking the internet. a lot of people just can't afford it. first, you have to have a computer, and, you know, i know computer costs have gone way, way down, you get a whole lot more for less than a few years ago. but still there's a cost there, and if you're a low income person, you don't have an extra five, six, $800 or a thousand where you can go out and buy
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some gizmo, whether it's a desktop, a laptop. it's a challenge. the funding is going to be a challenge, we just need to make sure we get as much access out there as possible and don't leave people behind. >> host: well, senator pryor, your colleague, senator mccain, has again introduced his a la carte cable bill. >> guest: i knew that was going to come up. >> host: speaking of costs, how do you feel about that? >>ing look, i appreciate senator mccain's passion on this. he's filed this bill every year, i think, since i've been in the senate. he feels passionately about it. i think we ought to look at it, consider it, but i also think we're seeing the market change there as well. because now, you know, the whole idea of a la carte and, again, intuitively i think people like this, is that when i buy a cable package from, say, you know, comcast or time warner, whoever i buy from, at&t, whoever it happens to be, when i buy that, i should be able to pick the
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channels i want. why do i have to pay for all these channels i don't want? that's what he's talking about. a la carte means you should be able to pick, and if you want 10, you want 50, it's up to you, you pick and choose what you want. but that's not the way the cable systems negotiate their contracts with the content folks, you know, with the hbos and abc, etc. that's just not how it works. so in effect what mccain is saying, we need to allow the consumer choice. so, again, i think a lot of people want that, but that really changes how cable is done today and even how satellite is done for that matter. so i think we ought to consider that, but my point a minute ago was that that's changing too because now if you want to watch, say, shows on nbc, there's web sites that you can go to and download those shows, right? and so that's changing as well. we're -- this whole area's morphing so much. i remember when i was a little kid in fayetteville, arkansas,
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had cable, it was one of the first cities in the country to have cable, i think it's the second oldest cable system in the country because of to zach mountains -- the ozark mountains. nonetheless, that was one of the earliest ones. but it is just light years ahead of what that used to be. i mean, it's just crazy how much this is changing. it continues to change. the question is will a la carte really be something that is even that desirable for people, say, five years from now? because things are changing so rapidly. but certainly, if senator mccain wants to talk about that, he's earned that right in the u.s. senate to bring bills like that up. >> host: gautham nagesh. >> you alluded to how quickly the video and communications landscape generally is changing, perhaps the technology industry as a whole. is that part of the explanation for why we've seen some reluctance from congress to take on some of these larger technology-focused pieces of legislation, things like a rewrite of the 1996 telecommunications act?
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we hear people say these laws are very outdated, but at the same time there's a very real risk of legislating and then seeing the market shift under your feet. >> guest: sure. no, that's exactly right. and if you think about something like a la carte, i mean, i don't know if there would be a need for a la carte in five years, i don't know, but it's possible that if congress gets in and tries to legislate too much and too specifically in these areas, then all of a sudden, you know, we stifle innovation, and we prevent the investment that we need to keep that cutting edge and the u.s. economy like we have. you know, i've had people sit in my office say we need to rewrite the '96 telecom act. i say, all right, tell me why you say so. well, the internet is only mentioned twice -- i don't know if that's true or not, but that's what they tell me. and back then the big fight in '96 was the telephone companies, the local versus the long distance. we've moved so far beyond that, it's not even funny. okay, that's true, but if you
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look at how this industry has driven the u.s. economy, look at the investment, look at how amazing this stuff is and how much it changes and how, you know, there's so much emphasis and so many resources there and it's all great, why do we want to go in -- what would we change in the law to try to make this better? i think we want to continue to spur be innovation, and i know there's some fixes we need to do here and there. i mean, this is a funny industry because most people are hypercompetitive, and they just fight, fight, fight all day, and they complain every day about this guy's getting a better deal than i am, or this industry. but then guess what? they're all doing great in the terms of they all have good chances to succeed here, and a lot of them have grown and have had a lot of success. >> host: senator pryor, before we run out of time, i want to ask you about the spectrum incentive auctions. where do you stand, where do we stand on those? is it going to happen in 2014? is it going to push to 2015? what's going to be your role and your committee's role?
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>> guest: i'm totally fine with having it in 2014. i'm hearing rumors it may not be quite ready, so it may slide into 2015. here again when we had our wireless hearing, every witness, every other answer they kept coming back to spectrum, spectrum, spectrum. that's the ball game. and one of the things that we need to talk about, too, and i'm sure you talked about it on this show before, is the amount of spectrum that the federal government owns. the dod is kind of the poster child for this, but a lot of other agencies have spectrum as well. and as you know and a lot of your audience will know that dod recently came out with a proposal of how they should proceed on some of the spectrum. but you know what? we need to be sensitive to dod. just as -- and the other agencies. just as we have utilized these wireless services more and we use the spectrum more in the private sector just for ourselves, they've done the same thing. they rely on this more and more. their systems are more and more based on this.
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they have a bigger investment than they've ever had. you just can't flip a switch and move them off. it's going to take some time and a lot of money to do this. one of the things is to try and give them the incentive to do it, and i think that's part of the proposal. i would hope that we would get it done in 2014. my guess is it may slide to 2015, but this is a very important thing. and then there's lots of issues within that about do you let, you know, people just do big national foot prints, or do you go more locally regionalized? do you cap companies' ability to hold x amount of spectrum? so we have all those questions that are going to need to be resolved. i think most will be resolved by the fcc, but certainly, i think this is so important it again would be a candidate to have a hearing on it in our subcommittee. >> host: gautham? >> finally, i wanted to touch on an issue that you personally have raised in the past, and
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that's the issue of accessibility. we've talked about rural communications and rural areas being left behind. there's also a risk that are differently able being left behind. can you speak to the state of that legislation which i believe is still pending? >> guest: yeah. we actually passed legislation two or three years ago, the 21st century communications access act -- i can't remember the exact name of it, but anyway, we passed it. president obama signed it into law. it's now being implemented. basically, what happened was is as say with telephony, with just normal telephones there were requirements about access to the hearing impaired and sight impaired. but when you got to the smartphones, there really was no such requirement. some companies were doing it, and we appreciate that, that's great, but there's no real consistency. so we passed this law. now the companies are pretty much getting onboard about how they have to do this and why they do it, and they're doing it and it's good. but there are still some bumps
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in the road. one is about closed captioning on the internet. you know? and some video closed captioning, what not, to make sure that the deaf and blind community can have full access to all the technology we have today. so i'm a big supporter of that. i think it's important. talk about not leaving people behind, as you said, and just because you have a disability, i don't want you to be left behind when it comes to this either. you should be able to enjoy the men fifths of a -- benefits of a smartphone or a tablet, whatever it happens to be. you should be able to enjoy the benefit of that as well. >> host: and finally, senator pryor, what grade would you give the federal government when it comes to cybersecurity? >> guest: i would say probably kind of c at best. i really wish that -- and i've been pushing for this in the senate -- that we would move cybersecurity legislation. it's big, it's complicated. that word cybersecurity means different things to different people, but we need to get this
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done. and, actually, as hard as it is for me to say that the house has done something right -- no, i'm teasing about that, the house, they're fine -- they've actually passed some of this. and i think that we ought to look at what they've done and, certainly, if we want to take a stab at doing our own thing in the senate, that's great, but we need to get moving on this in the senate. this is a real threat, it's a real problem, and all of my colleagues who are on the intelligence committee -- i'm not, but they all lay awake worried about cybersecurity. we need to get this done, we need to try to get it done this year. >> host: senator mark pryor has been our guest on "the communicators," gautham nagesh has been our reporter. >> c-span, created by america's cable companies in 1979, brought to you as a public service by your television provider. >> next on c-span2, the legality of a government rule authorizing
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tax credits for americans who buy health insurance through federally-administered exchanges. and at 10 eastern we'll be live from the brookings institution as u.s. trade representative michael froman discusses trade relations with african nations including the extension of a law that expands trade and investment in the sub-saharan region of the continent. all this week booktv will be in prime time on c-span2. tonight books about iran. after "the communicators" at 8:30 eastern we'll begin with the hoover institution and the book "the shah." at 8:55, former nsc staffers discuss u.s. engagement with iran in "going to tehran." that's followed at 9:55 p.m. with abraham sofair talking about why the u.s. should confront iran's revolutionary